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Unkonventionelle Lösungen für eine zukunftsfähige Gesellschaft

Posts Tagged ‘Economist’

The beast of Bentonville battles Amazon, the king of the e-commerce jungle

Posted by hkarner - 9. Dezember 2017

Date: 07-12-2017
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

Amazon’s position today is eerily reminiscent of Walmart’s circa 1999

A BOA constrictor swallowing capitalism. A cyclone dragging the economy into its vortex. If you look back at how people described Walmart a decade ago, it is eerily similar to how Amazon is viewed now. The supermarket chain has “a scale of economic power we haven’t encountered before”, warned “The Walmart Effect”, a best selling book in 2006. But capitalism never stands still. The world’s largest company by sales is now the perceived underdog in an escalating grocery war with Amazon to fill 320m American bellies. The struggle will probably end in a messy stalemate. That will mean mediocre returns for investors—and happy days for consumers.

Just when Walmart’s aura was at its most intimidating, in 2006, stagnation beckoned. Its reputation for bullying its suppliers and staff became toxic. Over the next decade it hit saturation point. About 95% of Americans shop at Walmart at least once a year. It has three square feet of shop space for every adult in the country and has sunk $83bn into a fixed-asset base that is the fourth-largest owned by any American firm. Investors have worried for years that this empire of aisles and tills run from Bentonville, Arkansas, would become obsolete—what did Walmart’s executives, schooled in the arts of beating up baked-beans suppliers, know about the slick world of e-commerce being dreamed up in Silicon Valley and Seattle? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Hedge funds embrace machine learning—up to a point

Posted by hkarner - 9. Dezember 2017

Date: 07-12-2017
Source: The Economist

In investing, more artificial intelligence need not mean less of the human kind

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) has already changed some activities, including parts of finance like fraud prevention, but not yet fund management and stock-picking. That seems odd: machine learning, a subset of AI that excels at finding patterns and making predictions using reams of data, looks like an ideal tool for the business. Yet well-established “quant” hedge funds in London or New York are often sniffy about its potential. In San Francisco, however, where machine learning is so much part of the furniture the term features unexplained on roadside billboards, a cluster of upstart hedge funds has sprung up in order to exploit these techniques.

These new hedgies are modest enough to concede some of their competitors’ points. Babak Hojdat, co-founder of Sentient Technologies, an AI startup with a hedge-fund arm, says that, left to their own devices, machine-learning techniques are prone to “overfit”, ie, to finding peculiar patterns in the specific data they are trained on that do not hold up in the wider world. This is especially true of financial data, he says, because of their comparative paucity. Share-price time series going back decades still contain far less information than, say, the image data used to train Facebook’s facial-recognition algorithms. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Germany is not about to reinvigorate the EU

Posted by hkarner - 9. Dezember 2017

Date: 07-12-2017
Source: The Economist: Charlemagne

Europe’s Sleeping Beauty is proving devilishly hard to wake up

FOR so long the last man standing in Europe, Germany has suddenly become its Sleeping Beauty. Several Princes Charming are gathered around the bed, desperate to rouse the princess from her slumber. Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, urges Germany to wake up for the sake of Europe. Brussels anxiously watches the princess’s repose. Even Alexis Tsipras, who as Greece’s prime minister is more used to taking instructions from Berlin than giving them, has been whispering into her ear.

Europeans complain about the results of German leadership when they receive it, but do not much like its absence. In 2011 Radek Sikorski, then Polish foreign minister, declared himself less fearful of German power than German inaction. Today, as Germany clumsily grapples with the result of its inconclusive election in September, much of Europe finds itself in a similar spot.

It is all so frustrating. When France elected an avowedly reformist president in May, Germany seemed to have found the partner it had long claimed to seek. Two days after Germany’s election Mr Macron, who barely blinks without first considering the reaction in Berlin, delivered an ambitious speech on European reform calibrated not to antagonise Angela Merkel’s government. Some Germans are wringing their hands that he still awaits an answer. “France is ready for a European revolution and it is Germany that is pulling the brakes,” Martin Schulz, leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SDP), told Der Spiegel, a weekly. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Market failure: China takes on the EU at the WTO

Posted by hkarner - 9. Dezember 2017

Date: 08-12-2017
Source: The Economist

Both the EU and America are loth to weaken their defences against Chinese dumping

NOT all trade tension is made in America. China is suing the European Union at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Hearings began this week. China thinks it deserves treatment as a “market economy”. The EU, supported by America, disagrees. As they lock horns, each side sees the other as breaking a promise.

China’s entry into the WTO in 2001 was part of a grand bargain. In return for market access, it promised economic reform. The deal laid out unusually strict terms. Any members’ exports can face anti-dumping duties if sold too cheap. But China’s accession agreement allowed others to erect stronger defences, and assume that it was a non-market economy when calculating the “fair” duty—using third-country prices for comparison. In practice this meant higher tariffs. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Europe’s banks face a glut of new rules

Posted by hkarner - 4. Dezember 2017

Date: 02-12-2017
Source: The Economist

Ten years after the financial crisis, the regulatory revolution continues

FOR those oddballs whose hearts sing at the thought of bank regulation, Europe is a pretty good place to be. No fewer than five lots of rules are about to come into force, are near completion or are due for overhaul. They will open up European banking to more competition, tighten rules on trading, dent reported profits and boost capital requirements. Although they should also make Europe’s financial system healthier, bankers—after a decade of ever-tightening regulation since the crisis of 2007-08—may be less enthused.

Start with the extra competition. On January 13th the European Union’s updated Payment Services Directive, PSD2, takes effect. It sets terms of engagement between banks, which have had a monopoly on customers’ account data and a tight grip on payments, and others—financial-technology companies and rival banks—that are already muscling in. Payment providers allow people to pay merchants by direct transfer from their bank accounts. Account aggregators pull together data from accounts at several banks, so that Europeans can see a broad view of their finances in one place—and maybe find better deals for insurance, mortgages and so forth. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Europe’s banks are stronger than they were, but not strong enough

Posted by hkarner - 2. Dezember 2017

Date: 30-11-2017
Source: The Economist

A marathon of regulatory reform has further to run

THE permanent revolution rumbles on. Ten years after the financial crisis, Europe’s bankers must wonder whether the regulatory upheaval will ever cease. Next month two European Union directives start to bite. MiFID2 will make trading more transparent and oblige banks to charge clients separately for research; PSD2 will expose banks to more competition from technology companies, and each other, in everything from payment services to budgeting advice. A new accounting rule, IFRS 9, also kicks in, demanding timelier provisions for credit losses. The global capital standards drawn up after the crisis, Basel 3, may at last be on the verge of completion—implying yet another uptick in equity requirements for some European lenders.

Amid this blizzard of letters and digits, the European Commission is pushing ahead on yet another front. It is urging governments and the European Parliament to complete the EU’s banking union by 2019 and thus cut the “doom loop”, in which weak banks and sovereigns drag each other down. Because regulators treat all euro-area government bonds, regardless of origin, as risk-free, banks have an incentive to load up on them in order to economise on equity; and they favour their home governments’ bonds. Should the sovereign-bond prices fall, as they did in Greece, local banks take a big hit; if governments have to prop up lenders, the spiral goes on down. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Poor and sexy: Why is Berlin so dysfunctional?

Posted by hkarner - 2. Dezember 2017

Date: 30-11-2017
Source: The Economist

BERLIN Unlike other capitals, Germany’s is a drain on the rest of the country

AT A crossroads in the middle of Tegeler Forst, a wooded part of north-west Berlin, visitors can admire the city’s longest-serving provisional traffic light. Erected in 2013 after a burning car had destroyed the pillar on which the lights were mounted, it was meant to be replaced by a more permanent structure within a few weeks. When a city lawmaker asked the government why, four years later, the lights still had not been fixed, he received an interesting response: owing to changed regulations, calculating whether or not the new structure would fall down had become “very laborious and difficult”. The government would not specify how much longer it would take.

The traffic-light saga illuminates a wider problem. Berlin, the capital of Europe’s most successful economy, is surprisingly badly governed. The new airport, the city’s biggest flagship project, missed its seventh opening date earlier this year and may not open until 2021, ten years after it was originally supposed to. The jobless rate is among the highest in the country. Schools are dismal. Courts and police are so overworked that hundreds of millions of euros in fines and taxes have not been collected; and the city failed to keep tabs on Anis Amri, the jihadist who killed 11 people with a lorry last Christmas, despite warnings about him three weeks earlier.

Astonishingly for a capital city, Berlin makes Germany poorer. Without it, Germany’s GDP per person would be 0.2% higher. By comparison, if Britain lost London, its GDP per person would be 11.1% lower; France without Paris would be 14.8% poorer. “Berlin’s economic weakness is unique among European capitals”, says Matthias Diermeier of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Surely, these supersmart Brexiteers knew all this when they voted for Brexit!

Posted by hkarner - 2. Dezember 2017

Date: 30-11-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: Deal or no deal?

The siren song of a no-deal Brexit

The government’s slow conceding of ground is giving new life to the delusion that it would be better just to walk out

ALL the signs are that Britain is caving in on the three issues in the first phase of the Brexit talks. Theresa May was told she had to yield by next week to persuade the European Union summit on December 14th-15th to agree that there had been sufficient progress to begin talks on transition and a future trade framework. The prime minister has duly made big concessions on the rights of EU citizens in Britain and on the exit bill, perhaps enough to pass the test. There even seems to be some movement on the trickiest issue of all, how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, making a December deal more likely—but still not certain.

Yet behind the good new lurks a persistent and dangerous threat. The more that Mrs May yields, the more some Brexiteers argue that Britain should leave on March 29th 2019 without any deal at all. Even if she wins agreement to move to phase two of the talks, the lure of no deal will not disappear. Brexiteers hate the concessions that are being made in phase one, especially over money. And trade buffs are united in predicting that the phase two could prove even more painful, with the EU sticking to a rigid line on trade terms. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Small hybrid-electric airliners ready for take off

Posted by hkarner - 2. Dezember 2017

Date: 30-11-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: The electric-flight plan

Companies are getting serious about electrifying air travel

ELECTRIC cars are clean, quiet and, it seems, the way of the future. Tesla, an American firm that has done much to help electric cars shed their museli-munching image, is struggling to meet demand for its mid-market Model 3 (though that has not stopped it announcing plans to build electric lorries as well). Volvo, a Swedish carmaker, has said that, from 2019, all its cars will be at least part-electric. Volkswagen has plans to offer battery options across all of its brands; General Motors has made similar noises. Some countries, including China, Britain and France, are mooting bans on internal-combustion vehicles, to take effect within a couple of decades.

Not all forms of transport are so easy to electrify. One of the hardest is aviation, where battery power runs up against a serious problem: weight. Kilo-for-kilo, fossil fuels contain roughly 100 times as much energy as a lithium-ion battery. On the road, that is a problem which can be designed around. For a machine that must lift itself into the sky, it is much harder to solve. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Devil’s bargain: the EU and Africa

Posted by hkarner - 30. November 2017

Date: 29-11-2017
Source: The Economist

African and European leaders gather today in the Ivory Coast to discuss “investing in youth”. It is a telling theme. EU politicians are desperate to slow the flood of young Africans attempting the perilous journey across Libya and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. So far this year almost 175,000 mostly African migrants have made it, compared with 388,000 in 2016.

This downward trend has been achieved by doling out aid to governments with questionable human-rights records and cutting deals with militias in Libya, where migrants have been sold as slaves.

Numbers may soon start rising again.

Half of young Africans could be unemployed by 2025, says the African Development Bank; plenty more will be underemployed.

Meanwhile, the working-age population of sub-Saharan Africa is set to grow by around 800m between 2010 and 2050.

Regardless of measures adopted at today’s summit, those desperate for work might think a European trek worth the risk.

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